Saturday, February 17, 2007

Movie Review: Ghost Rider

Marvel's Ghost Rider is the latest comic book superhero to come to the big screen. Virtually unknown to those who don't follow comics (unless they're Method Man fans),this movie combines the superhero action and PG-13 horror genres. The result is a fun, silly flick that only appears to take itself seriously.

The movie begins as we learn the legend of the ghost rider. This person makes a deal with the devil and in return must work as his bounty hunter of sorts. We are first introduced to Johnny Blaze as a young man who participates in his father's motorcycle stunt show and loves his soon-to-move girlfriend Roxanne. After finding out that his father's dying of cancer, the devil (Peter Fonda) visit Johnny in his dreams. The devil offers to cure his father's cancer in exchange for eventually calling upon Johnny to do his bidding. When Johnny wakes up, his father is cured but the devil (being a prick and all) kills him anyway.

We flash forward a couple of decades where Johnny (Nicolas Cage) is a big-time motorcycle stunt man. Just before his latest stunt, his past comes back to visit as his childhood girlfriend Roxanne (Eva Mendes) shows up to interview him. Just when he thinks they can reconnect, he gets called upon to become the new ghost rider.

What makes Ghost Rider work is the fact that it doesn't really try to take itself that seriously. Nicolas Cage is in full “Jerry Bruckheimer movie mode” as the title character. He takes his ridiculous role just serious enough to keep the movie from feeling like a self-parody. Cage talks in a digitally deepened, Hulk-esque voice as Ghost Rider which only adds to the fun. While Peter Fonda hams it up a bit as the devil, the performance I really enjoyed was that of Sam Elliott. He plays a mysterious cemetery “caretaker” who helps Johnny Blaze deal with his newfound powers. Elliott spends the whole movie talking in a western drawl and occasionally spitting. You can't help but like him.

The effects in this movie are pretty good and the action scenes are quite funny. Little things will make you laugh whether it's the way a street punk asks for mercy when Ghost Rider goes after him or the way the camera closes up on a man's eyes as Ghost Rider's bike almost lands on him. This movie also finds every conceivable way to have horror without blood in order to get its PG-13 rating. Fans of the current crop of gore films won't be grossed out but there are a couple of times where the movie manages to make you jump.

Ghost Rider is a popcorn movie through and through. It blurs the line between fun flick and hilariously bad movie. This movie is nowhere near the level of recent superhero films like Batman Begins and X-2 but then again, it doesn't try for that level either. If you want something fun and forgettable to take your mind out of the winter doldrums for a little while, this is the movie to see. If you're looking for something more substantial to pass the time in the movie theater, you had best look elsewhere.

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